In its version of the budget, the Texas House of Representative didn’t include additional funding needed for the Texas HIV Medication Program over the next two years. About 14,000 low-income people with HIV get their life-saving drugs through the program. That number is expected to grow by several thousand during the current budget cycle.
The Houston Chronicle called the under-funding of the program “Our deadly, costly choices.”
Don Maison, executive director of AIDS Services of Dallas, referred to the possible cuts as “legalized murder.”
“The only life this Legislature seems to value is the life that exists in a uterus,” he said.
During the Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting last Tuesday, John Wiley Price asked county officials what the cuts would cost Dallas.
The first answer he got from a county official was that it would cost the county nothing because Dallas would not lose funding from the state directly.
But Price pressed a Parkland representative to estimate what the cuts would cost the hospital that is operated and funded by the county. The hospital will be impacted by additional emergency room visits and hospitalizations of people who become sick or by covering the cost of medications.
The negotiated rate for a drug regimen for a year is in the $6,000-$10,000 range.
Bret Camp at Resource Center Dallas said even though local public health systems would do what they could, he doesn’t think they can fill the void.
“We don’t know what the impact will be,” he said. “I’m very concerned that people who are currently healthy are at risk of losing this crucial service. The potential for disaster is there.”
The state may rewrite rules about who can obtain their medication through the program, Camp said, and that would take some people off the program. That could turn healthy people sick.
County commissioners all seemed to understand the devastating impact the cuts would have on Parkland and none objected when Price called for the hospital representative to prepare an estimate of the expected cost.
The Texas HIV medication program receives matching funds from the federal government. So for every $1 million the state cuts, the program loses $2 million. Even if Dallas County decides to pick up the program itself to save lives and save the hospital money, the matching funds are only available to the state.
A Senate panel has recommended that the additional funds be included in the Senate’s version of the budget, but it remains to be seen whether the expenditure will survive final negotiations with the House.